Green, green wine - Irish blood runs through vineyards in heart of Bordeaux
Fans sample a tipple at Chateau Lynch Bages as they arrive for match, write Ralph Riegel and Wayne O'Connor
The proud home of claret is turning green. Fans marched into Bordeaux, the heart of French wine country, for their second Euro 2016 fixture against Belgium with one famous vineyard proudly proclaiming its Irish roots.
Chateau Lynch Bages was founded by an Irish 'wine geese' family from Galway who were so successful in Bordeaux that one descendant became mayor and another a member of the French Parliament.
Today, the Chateau Lynch Bages label is one of the most prestigious in Bordeaux - and celebrity visitors to the famous vineyard over the years have included President Mary Robinson and rock star Rod Stewart.
Ireland is now one of the most successful export markets for Chateau Lynch Bages. Current owner, Jean-Michel Cazes, whose son Jean Charles manages the vineyard at Paulliac, said the family were deeply proud of their Irish connections.
"John or Jean Lynch moved to Bordeaux from Galway after the Battle of the Boyne," Jean-Michel explained.
"He arrived in Bordeaux in 1691 and started work as a merchant. He was very successful. His son, Thomas Michel, married Elizabeth Drouillard, the daughter of one of the 'big men' in Bordeaux."
Irish fans Kevin Flanagan, Mairead Ní Chonluain and Ciaran Ó Conluain visited the scenic vineyard yesterday.
"We decided to see Ireland play Belgium in Bordeaux and combine it with a visit to the vineyard," Kevin said.
The group, from Clontarf in Dublin, are lucky enough to have tickets for the match in Bordeaux, where match passes are at a premium.
There was friendly banter between Irish and Belgian fans, Joeffrey Sohy and Dehasse Stephane, who were also visiting the vineyard.
"The Irish fans can party but Belgium is still going to win. Allez les Diables Rouges," they joked.
The Lynch family founded and ran the Bages vineyard from 1749 right through to 1824. Thomas' sons, Michel and Jean-Baptiste, were hugely successful.
Jean-Baptiste became Mayor of Bordeaux while Michel ran the expanding vineyard. However, Michel never had children and the vineyard eventually left the family in his elderly years.
"There is still a very proud connection thanks to the 'wild geese' or, as they say here, the 'wine geese' between Ireland and Bordeaux," Jean-Michel said.
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"You have a number of chateaus including ourselves, Chateau Lynch Bages, as well as Chateau Kirwan, Chateau Phelan and Chateau McCarthy."
Jean-Michel is now an honorary member of the Irish Wine Geese Association.
In terms of Irish football and the Green Army, Jean-Michel believes the best vintages were undoubtedly Euro 88 and World Cups 1990, 1994 and 2002.
Jean-Michel said he hoped that 2016 proves an extra special year both for the Chateau Lynch Bages harvest and for the Boys in Green.
"I will say 'salut' to that," he said.
Meanwhile, Roy Keane praised the Green Army's behaviour during the tournament so far.
"The Irish fans, every where they go they seem to be having a good time and sometimes you wish you were with them," he said.